Did you know an evening return rail ticket to Oxford and beyond shouldn’t cost more than £3.00?
When a firstname.lastname@example.org reader wrote to say he’d stumbled across this “Oxford Evening Out” promotion from First Great Western, we decided to test it out. The promotion, which has been on offer since 2008, promises unlimited evening travel in the area shown on the map below for just £3.00 (or less for concessions). Sounds good, eh? However, be warned that you can’t take advantage of this offer online (see the screen dump above) and you won’t be able to obtain the cheaper ticket from any station ticket machine either.
Our intrepid reporters decided to give the Oxford Evening Out a try one evening last week. They first looked for it on the main ticket machine at King’s Sutton station. No dice. So they decided to buy a permit to travel from the other machine and pay at the Oxford ticket office instead. As ever, said machine just swallowed their money without issuing the necessary permit. Undaunted, they proceeded to Oxford and explained the situation to an unsympathetic ticket clerk who begrudgingly issued them with their cheap tickets.
When our reporters told their new friend about the non-working permit to travel machine at King’s Sutton, he grumpily pointed out that it was nothing to do with him because “that station’s operated by Chiltern Railways.” On being questioned why no-one at First Great Western had ever mentioned the “Oxford Evening Out” promotion to them before, he said “we’re not allowed to say anything about it unless people ask for it.”
So, welcome to the wild and wacky world of today’s train operators: Ticket machines that don’t work, promotions they don’t want to promote and a couldn’t-care-less attitude to passengers’ ticketing issues. Anyone might think they were actively trying to discourage rail users at rural stations like ours. Oh, wait a minute...